The Columbus Explorers moved one step closer to a trip to state with a 38-21 win over district rival Coral Gables in a Region 4-8A quarterfinal playoff game.
But a big win for the Explorers and a big night for running back Henry Parrish Jr. was quickly overshadowed postgame when tempers flared and chaos overtook Tropical Park.
Players had a minor brawl on the Coral Gables sideline after Cavaliers quarterback Gerald Williams was tackled to close out the game. The Columbus team retreated to its locker room after the game only to come sprinting back to the field moments later saying there was a person in the locker room with a gun. Police evacuated the stadium but later said no shots were fired. Both teams went to their respective buses without conducting interviews.
As for the game, Parrish carried the load with 266 yards on 20 carries with four touchdowns, including a 71-yard sprint less than two minutes left in the game.
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His 4-yard touchdown that capped off a 52-yard drive in the first quarter opened scoring. Columbus (11-0) went up 14-0 on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Brandon McDuffey to Gary Cooper before Coral Gables (6-5) tied it up with a pair of touchdown passes from Williams to D’Angelo Paul and Rasaad Sawyer that exposed the Columbus secondary.
The Explorers tightened up, with safety Rudy Puig intercepting passes on back-to-back drives. Each led to a Parrish rushing touchdown to give Columbus a 28-14 hafltime lead.
A 26-yard field goal pushed the Explorers to 31-14 before Coral Gables scored its final points on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Sawyer. The Cavaliers forced Columbus to punt and rattled off a 14-play drive before turning the ball over on downs with about three minutes left. A pair of rushes from Parrish, including the 71-yard touchdown, iced the game.
Columbus will face Palmetto in the Regional semifinal on Nov. 16. Palmetto defeated Belen Jesuit 45-7 on Thursday.